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March 2010 Archives

Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

Sex toys are the new Tupperware, so I wasn't surprised when my friend Joy recently invited me to a party to check out some goods from a company called Pure Romance. I was surprised by the variety of stuff it sells, though, including bath and beauty items, clothes, and something called a sex attractant.

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The pheromone-based fragrance, called Basic Instinct (possibly NSFW), claims it heightens your natural pheromones "to enhance romantic encounters and increase sexual desire," according to the fine print on the 10.2-milliliter bottle I skeptically bought for about $30. The saleswoman/sex consultant explained that the product brings out a woman's "natural" scent, which can vary from floral to fruity to musky.

"The concept of a human pheromone, or sexual scent of attraction, has been
debated and researched for years," according to a WebMD story first published in 1999, citing original research from the '70s. The story also said an amazing 74 percent of people who tested out a similar commercial pheromone "experienced an increase in hugging, kissing and sexual intercourse."

Too good to be true? As I tried a sample, the consultant said my pheromones are musky (not to be confused with musty!) , like vanilla and sandalwood. Apparently, this is a good thing because men like the scent of vanilla -- it reminds them of food, she said. What a great sales pitch!

Full disclosure: I do not wear perfume. I just use baby lotion because I like the clean smell; nothing is worse than smelling like sweat mixed with flowers. But I tried the "sex attractant" anyway for a few days. Here are some findings from various situations:

Think you know who's playing Lollapalooza this year? The fest wants to give you the chance to figure it out. If you go to the "Lineup" page on the official website, you'll find a lot of empty boxes, with a few "O"s filled in to get you started.

Once you figure it out, make sure to purchase your passes...$190 "advance-price" tickets are likely to sell out soon.

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Hometown hero Hannibal Buress holds down Zanies all week. (photo: drinkatwork.com)

Hannibal Buress
8:30 p.m. at Zanies; $23
The West Side native has come a long way from crashing open mics. Now a writer for "Saturday Night Live" and a featured performer on Comedy Central, the stand-up comedian is the toast of his hometown, so expect this five-night residency to be packed. Hannibal recently talked to the Sun-Times about his unorthodox sense of humor.

The Ruby Suns, Toro Y Moi
9 p.m. at Schubas; $10
Plucked from New Zealand to join the Sub Pop set, pop connoisseur Ryan McPhun gets wily with Kenya-sourced rhythms and chorus lines soaked up from some recent travels, though interpreted with a completely digital set-up. If you always thought Panda Bear's Person Pitch needed a bit more boogie, McPhun's got you covered. South Carolina’s Toro Y Moi, on the other hand, has been getting a lot of flak for riding the chillwave post-storm (Neon Indian, Washed Out, Memory Cassette). He's got more than lo-fi foot-dragging up his sleeve, however, teasing sets with some hip-friendly guitar jangles when the mood gets too fuzzy.

Firefighter Chili Cook-Off
6-8 p.m. at Rock Bottom Brewery; $5-$10
In honor of the release of Rock Bottom's Fire Chief Ale (available through April 4), the brewery's Chicago location hosts this 14th annual competition benefiting the Chicago Fire Department and related charities. Your admission fee gets you unlimited samples of 25 different chilis crafted by local firefighters; pay another $5 for your choice of beer in a souvenir pint glass.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Franks ‘N’ Dawgs
Upscale sausage stand in Lincoln Park.

Off the Beaten Path: Fox’s on the River
Fine dining and great scenery in Batavia.

Weekly Treat: You’re the boss at Uptown Lounge
U-Call-It for just $3 all night tonight.

Man We're Crazy About: Paris Cafe
Quaint River North cafe livens up with dancing at night.

For more Chicago bar and restaurant news, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Here are some recent Chicago restaurant openings.

OPEN:
Sable Kitchen & Bar -- This 158-seat "gastrolounge" is adjacent to the Hotel Palomar in River North.
Rendezvous Bistro -- Expect classic dishes like salade nicoise, steak frites and coq au vin at this French restaurant in Lincoln Square.
Frank's Deli - The folks behind Bertolli's Pizza have opened up an Italian deli/food shop next door in River Forest.

CLOSED:
Bhabi's Kitchen - Guess you'll have to try one of the many other Indian spots in the area around Devon Avenue.

Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.


The Moth StorySlam: Busted
8 p.m. at Martyrs'; $7
Ever been caught with your pants down, your hand in the cookie jar, or both at once? Why not relive the humiliating experience in front of an audience of hundreds? This monthly series features true tales told live by anyone brave enough to take the stage. March's theme is "Busted," so get your story straight, put your name in the hat, and pull up your damn pants.

Blackhawks Road Watch
7 p.m. at Lottie's Pub; free
If you can't travel to St. Louis to watch Patrick Kane and co. take on the Blues, this Bucktown party is the next best thing. Hawks announcer Gene Honda and the Ice Girls (good band name?) will be on hand, offering prizes like jerseys, 100-level tickets and signed memorabilia. You can also score $3.50 domestic pints all night.

Italian Passover Seder
5:30 and 8:30 p.m. seatings at Piccolo Sogno; $75/person
We're not sure how an Italian Passover feast will work when you can't have pasta, but you can find out at this unique dinner in River West tonight. Expect a traditional service to start, and kosher wine to flow throughout the evening.

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Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

Full disclosure: I don’t really watch "The Bachelor." I got the idea for this weekly series from my good friend who is destined to end up with a rose in a future season. So now I’m having to do “research” by reading about old seasons via “The Bachelor’s Diary” entries. It’s a charmed life, I’d say.

This week, I found that one of the most romantic moments in the history of the show came from Season 2, when Bachelor Aaron and (eventual loser) Gwen kiss in a hot air balloon ride, separate from their three-person beach date that also included surfing lessons. I haven’t seen it, but I can picture it to the tune of “Hot Air Balloon” by Owl City (“I’ll be out of my mind/And you’ll be out of ideas pretty soon/So let’s spend the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon”). Swoon!

The Bachelor: An "exclusive" ride (meant for two people and their pilot) goes for $527 with Chicago Hot Air Balloons. The adventure -- which includes watching them blow up and prep the balloon -- lasts about three hours, although you'll be up in the air for just 45 to 60 minutes, going five to seven miles around northwest suburban Crystal Lake and up 500 to 2,000 feet. You pick a date and either sunrise or sunset and the pilot calls the night before to tell you where to go. Feel like romancing yourself? Get in a shared basket with a few others for just $256 per person -- just don't jump out when the loneliness creeps in.

You can also try Sky Rides Balloons, Inc., where a two-passenger ride goes for $350 (Monday-Thursday) or $450 (Friday-Sunday). Takes off in southwest suburban Joliet.

The Poor Man: Who needs a sexy hot-air balloon taking you where the wind blows (literally) when you can just get down to Navy Pier and try out the new tethered balloon ride? For $25, you get a 10-minute ride in the AeroBalloon, which is basically a big basket thing that is anchored to the ground but floats 350 feet via helium balloon. The attraction is scheduled to be back early May through late September. Great views of the Chicago skyline are promised, as is a similarly swoon-filled romantic date.

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The Radical Reuben will cost you less than $5 on Thursday. (via Chicago Diner)

Before 1983, if you went to a Chicago diner and ordered a meatless reuben, you'd probably have gotten two slices of bread with some cheese and sauerkraut stuffed in between (not to mention a lot of dirty looks).

That all changed when the Chicago Diner opened, offering not only radically different reuben sandwiches but lots more comfort-food made with vegetarian/vegan ingredients. Next week, the Boystown landmark celebrates its 27th birthday by offering select sandwiches for $4.95 each and drinks for just $3. The best news: you don't have to get in a 'Hot Tub Time Machine' to enjoy these flashback prices.

Monday, March 29: Diner Burger, Peak Organic
Tuesday, March 30: Gyros, Goose Island
Wednesday, March 31: Black Bean Burger, Three Floyds
Thursday, April 1: Radical Reuben, Metropolitan
Friday, April 2: Philly Steak, Cliff Climber Wine


Feeling the faux protein? Centerstage found some other delicious dishes that won't make you miss the meat.

3 Things To Do Today

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Janelle Monae
8 p.m. at Schubas; $14
You know the hair. Now get to know the artist underneath it. The "cybersoul" pioneer mixes soul, funk and rock to create a sound that's as innovative as it is danceable. Her new album, "The Arch Android," comes out May 18.

That Sordid Little Story
7:30 p.m. at Studio Theater; $5 suggested donation
New Colony's beguiling "11:11" maybe have just closed, but the company isn't resting on its rave reviews, not when there's new work to be done. This developmental staged reading (with original music) tells the tale of a man who comes to believe that his life story is contained in a 1963 concept album. It's at the city-owned Studio Theater (at the Chicago Cultural Center) for today only.

Puerto Rican Dinner
7 p.m. at La Cocina de Galarza; $20
I Wish Lessons' world food tour continues with a stop at this Logan Square family-owned favorite, where you'll start with a discussion of food and cultural traditions, then follow up with a prix-fixe dinner. Prepare for large portions...and don't forget that it's BYOB.

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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A different kind of hunt
Albany Park (2741 W. Montrose) is hosting a dog-friendly Easter egg hunt from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s $5 per dog and pets must be on a leash at all times. Dogs can participate in an Easter bonnet parade and there will be photo ops with the Easter Bunny himself. Information: (773) 478-3499.

It’s good to be Joe today
In honor of National Joe Day (we’re as surprised as you are), Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab (60 E. Grand) is giving everyone a free cup of joe with any lunch or dinner purchase. If your name is Joe (or some variation, like Jose or Joanna), you get a free slice of key lime pie.

Lest “The Hurt Locker” Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow get a swelled head
New Rock Theater Productions presents a live, over-the-top, comedic version of her 1991 opus “Point Break” with all the guns, surfboards and water you’d expect in a campy send-up. Tickets are $20-$25 for the 10 p.m. show at the La Costa Theatre (3931 N. Elston). Information: (866) 811-4111; www.pointbreaklive.com.


Hey! You got three better ones?
Tell us your three favorite things about Saturday!

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Nelson Algren Birthday Party
8 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Cultural Center; $10
Celebrate what would have been the 101st birthday of the famed Chicago writer, whose gritty works about the city include The Man with the Golden Arm and Chicago: City on the Make. This year's fete is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, who wrote the Algren-esque People's History of the United States. There will be a cash bar and door prizes at the event.

1190606895beauty bar.JPGLook good while having fun at the new Beauty Bar. (photo: pinklife)

Baio, Kid Color
9 p.m. at Beauty Bar; $5
The late Sonotheque (sad face) gets its hair did Beauty Bar-style, as NYC's famed East Village salon-turned-hipster-DJ-hang plants a seed in our city. Owner Paul Devitt didn't come in cold, though, partnering with Empty Bottle owners Peter Toalson and Bruce Finkelman, who are filtering in artists like Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio (spinning records after his sold-out gig at the Riviera), teased with local disco-house fave Kid Color at this opening-night gala. As at all other Beauty Bars, martinis and manicures rule happy hour for $10.

Chicago Short Film Brigade Premiere
8:30 p.m. at Hideout; $8
The group's fourth season kicks off with a number of international short films, including entries from Canada, Peru, Germany, Russia and, um, Minnesota. We're especially pumped for the two short films by animator Al Jarnow, as well as the free popcorn and homemade pies from Sugar Kist.

Phinal Thursdays
8 p.m. at Red Kiva; free
This new event (last Thursday of each month) continues its "salute to Chicago underground hip-hop and cutting-edge urban apparel" with special appearances from rapper Reno Chinati and Black Orchard, as well as beats provided by PHLI Worldwide. Also on tap: $5 Absolut cocktails and a selection of gourmet flatbread pizza.


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Few things go together better than drinking and writing – just ask Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Raymond Carver, Dorothy Parker and the dozens of other award-winning authors who’ve done their best work while battling massive hangovers.

The tried-and-true pairing has been a hit for Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda as well. The two are the founders of the Drinking & Writing Brewery, which has spawned several plays, a radio show and a popular annual festival at the Hopleaf.

This year, things are getting really interesting. Not only will there soon be a Drinking & Writing Theater – to be housed in the new Haymarket Pub & Brewery (opening in August) owned by Pete Crowley, the group’s resident Brewmaster – but Mosqueda and Benjamin have just announced the first-ever Drinking & Writing Experience, a five-week workshop that covers the ins and outs of both topic areas. The events, to take place at a different local bar/brewery each week, will include discussions about particular drunken writers, some writing time and guest speakers from the drinking and writing communities, as well as at least two drinks per class. The series will end with group performances using material generated during the sessions.

The Experience runs on Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m., April 14-May 12, and is limited to 15 participants. Cost is $200, or $235 with tickets to this year's Beerfly Alleyfight (May 22) and Drinking & Writing Festival (June 12). Sign up here.

Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

It is often said that “Men like the chase."

But it has always confused me since some say men love aggressive women, while others also insist that they are turned off by women who appear too “available.” How can you be aggressive without being available?

The concept implies that only men are actively choosing who to chase and how. But anyone who has been to a lively Wrigleyville bar on a Saturday night can agree that women have reached near-equal footing in the dating-and-mating scene. Still, dating personality tests do commonly ask you to identify yourself as a Chaser or Chasee.

Everyone is a chaser, according to my friend Drew. Some of us are hunters who actively approach, while others just set their lines out hoping to catch fish.

My friend Lexi, however, is exclusively the Chasee, she says. Lexi adamantly expects the guy to pay for the first-date with no exceptions. "What if he's a student, or recently laid off, or just doesn't have money?" I asked. Claiming she is old-fashioned, she said the guy needs to respect her with that kind of chivalry. Her apathy about the man's financial situation comes from exposure to the theories of "He's Just Not That Into You" --which claims a man will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING when he really likes the woman. Lexi is just weeding out the un-utterly devoted men.

My friend Jim supports that strategy: "When you first meet and really like her, you make it happen and try to do everything right." He also claims he never takes a woman seriously that he didn't have to chase or "earn."

I'm alternately a Chasee and a Chaser, and I've had problems with both roles: men who approached me too straightforwardly only bored me, yet those who weren’t responsive enough were boring, too. This is a common experience among many people I know, although my friend Tim likes to place blame mostly on the fairer sex: “Women want everything and nothing.”

As I gain dating experience, I learn that the best courtships are like a good game of flirtation Tag. That is, if you're playing with someone so that you can, ultimately and someday, exchange the words, "You're it!"

Can you exclusively identify as either a Chaser or Chasee? Do you prefer Tag? Let's talk! Take our quick poll and send me your thoughts in the comments section.




 




















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3 Things To Do Today

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
7:30 p.m. at Auditorium Theatre; $30-$85
The world's most respected African-American dance company kicks off a short five-day run at Auditorium Theatre tonight. The performance will include "Uptown," a new ballet set in the Harlem Renaissance era to the music of Fats Waller and Nat "King" Cole; "Dancing Spirit," a tribute to Judith Jamison set to the music of Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis and War; and the classic "Revelations."

Air
8 p.m. at Riviera Theatre; $31
With its downtempo beats and whimsical melodies, Air (Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) has entranced fans all across the globe — from backpack hip-hoppers to in-the-know hipsters. Its newest album, "Love 2" (released by Astralwerks), carries on the traditions of previous works with its heavy usage of spaced-out synths and dreamy vibes, but is in no way repetitive thanks to some well placed, romantically inclined vocals. This show is one in a handful of stateside performances for the Parisian duo.

Chinatown Dining Tour
5:30-9 p.m. beginning at Triple Crown Seafood Chinese Restaurant; $20-$25
Curious about authentic Chinese food, but don't know which restaurant to choose? With this second annual tour, you don't have to. The event includes stops at 13 different Chinatown restaurants and bakeries, including Lao Sze Chuan, Chiu Quon Bakery, Lee Wing Wah and Hing Kee.


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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Harry Caray's (Navy Pier)
It's a tourist bonanza at the latest outpost of the popular bar.

Off the Beaten Path: Gyood!
Roscoe Village soft serve spot will deliver to you.

Weekly Treat: Chicago Chef Week is under way
Find dozens of great deals all around the city.

Man We're Crazy About: Kirkwood Bar & Grill
Lakeview sports bar caters to Hoosiers and Huskers.

For more Chicago bar and restaurant news, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Don't look now, but Passover's on its way. If you're looking for a way to celebrate that doesn't involve ornery uncles and overly sweet wine, Matzo Bash II: The Leftovers, going down 8 p.m.-2 a.m. on Thursday, April 1 at Martini Park, could be your answer. The event includes a sponsored cocktail reception (8-9 p.m.) with Absolut Acai, Jameson and Malibu Rum, complimentary 'Passover-style' appetizers (8-9:30 p.m.) plus a live band and DJ.

Tickets ($10) are available here, but Centerstage doesn't think you should have to pay to party. One lucky Facebook fan will get a pair of passes -- to enter, post your favorite Passover memory here by Thursday, March 25.

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for...free ice cream.

That's right, today's Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's, where you can get a complimentary scoop from noon-8 p.m. today. The nearest participating area locations are at Navy Pier, The Glen in Northbrook and Oak Park (1025 W. Lake). Sorry travelers, the Midway location won't be participating.

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Danny Chaimson will bring things back to the old school tonight at Schubas.
(photo: MySpace)

Danny Chaimson
8 p.m. at Schubas; $8
Here's how this artist was pitched to us: "Danny's kind of like a mix of Randy Newman and Dr. John, if they were raised on Snoop and Native Tongues." Need we say more? Ok, here's a little more: Chaimson's brand of Memphis soul (to be played tonight with his band, the 11th Hour) has been shaking booties all over the place of late, including at SXSW, where he garnered some positive press from the likes of Esquire and LA Weekly.

Housemade Cheese and Wine Party
6 p.m. at David Burke's Primehouse; free
Several months ago, Primehouse executive chef Rick Gresh took his team to Grassfields Farm in southwest Michigan where, among other things, they made their own cheese. That Organic Lamont Chedder is finally ready, and to celebrate, Gresh hosts this event including petite grilled cheese sandwiches, beer cheese soup and ham and cheese croquettes, paired with wines ($7/glass) by sommelier Rachael Johnson. Reservations aren't necessary, but Lactaid pills might be.

Daisy Martinez Book-Signing

5-7 p.m. at Carnivale; free
The host of the Food Network's "Viva Daisy!" comes to Carnivale to sign copies of her new cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon, and Night ($30). In honor of the appearance, chef Mark Mendez offers appetizer specials from the book, including blue cheese and caramelized onion empanadas, Puerto Rican chicken and pigeon pea soup, and Daisytinis.

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This could be yours...for one shining moment.

You've got another few days until you can re-indulge in the sports orgy that is March Madness, as the Sweet Sixteen doesn't begin until Thursday.

To fill the void in your life, consider Mac Madness, Rockit Bar & Grill's showcase of a comfort food classic. There's no tournament here, just a different specialty mac 'n' cheese offering each day this week (in addition to the traditional four-cheese variety). The following $12 indulgences will be available at Rockit's River North and Wrigleyville locations through Friday:

Monday
Tuna Melt Mac with Peas and Garlic Bread Crumb Crust

Tuesday
BBQ Pork and Bacon Mac with Smooth Yellow Cheddar

Wednesday

Red Wine Braised Oxtail Mac with Caramelized Onions and Bubbling Gruyere (pictured)

Thursday
Buffalo Chicken Mac with Buttermilk Blue Fondue

Friday
Crawfish and Andouille Mac with Smoked Gouda Lovin’

Are you America's next great restaurateur? There's only one way to find out, at least if you want to play that role on reality TV.

Chipotle hosts an open casting call for a new NBC show called "America's Next Great Restaurant" (for now, at least) at the restaurant's Warrenville location (28251 Diehl Rd.) on Sunday, March 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The show's winner -- who must successfully complete all manner of challenges during the season -- will get the opportunity to open a restaurant chain in three cities across the country.

The first step to making your dream a reality is to pre-register at nbc.com/casting and complete an application.

3 Things To Do Today

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David Morales helps Boom Boom Room celebrate tonight at Green Dolphin.

Boom Boom Room
10 p.m. at Green Dolphin Street; $10
The venerable house-music event celebrates its 19th birthday with a special installment featuring DJs David Morales and Hector Romero, in addition to residents, Diz, Uncle Milty, Just Joey and Michael Serafini. RSVP to rsvp@boomboomroomchicago.com.

Policeman's Log
9:30 p.m. at Gorilla Tango Theatre; $10
There are two sides to every story, but only one version of the truth. Pulling actual police reports from recent newspapers, the cast of "Policeman's Log" will show audiences how the incidents 'actually' happened. This fully improvised show will shine a new light on those who break the law, and those who uphold it. Tonight's performance is the final one in the run.

Get It Together Again
8 a.m.-7 p.m. at Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph; free
This exhibition of work by local, national and international artists is organized by Chad Kouri of the Post Family and Ed Marszewki of Co-Prosperity Sphere. It includes over 25 works on paper, mixed media and installations like Adrianne Goodrich's grocery store shelves with hand-drawn products (pictured). Guests can create their own collages with provided materials (or you can bring your own).

Here are some recent Chicago restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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OPEN:
Franks 'N' Dawgs - This upscale Lincoln Park meat joint takes the humblest of street foods to the height of culinary sophistication with haute creations like a spicy duck sausage.
Elly's - The popular suburban breakfast joint (with outposts in Mundelein and Arlington Heights) makes its first foray into the city with this Old Town restaurant.
Dee's Place - Settle in with a plate of BBQ chicken and other soul food favorites while listening to live jazz and blues music at this new Ukrainian Village BYOB.
McGonigal's Pub - Expect classic Irish and British fare in Barrington.
Greek Feast - This Northbrook restaurant from the people behind Georgie V's offers everything from gyros to lamb chops.

CLOSING:
Hashalom - The Israeli/Moroccan restaurant will on Devon will serve its last falafel on March 28.

CLOSED (until further notice):
Joe's Taylor Street Sub Shop - The owner of this Little Italy favorite, Joseph Cancilla, passed away on March 15.


Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.

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Remember those poster fairs at college, when every man, woman and child would come forth to claim the "unique" Bob Marley or Jim Morrison poster with which to plaster the walls of dorm rooms across campus?

Think of this weekend's International Vintage Poster Fair as the grown-up version. More than 10,000 old posters will be for sale at the event, including food and liquor ads, Art Deco displays and more. We're most intrigued by "The Art of Persuasion," a feature exhibit on the history of propaganda posters over the last century, which is almost certain not to feature Bob Marley.

The Fair kicks off with a preview party from 5-9 p.m. tonight at the Pritzker Military Library ($30, including wine, hors d'oeuvres, a raffle and lecture), and runs from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph. Admission is $15, but free for those under 25.

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Fred Anderson (photo: Jazz Institute of Chicago)

Fred Anderson's Birthday Benefit Festival
Friday-Sunday at Velvet Lounge; $25-$30
This four-show celebration of the tenor sax legend includes an Asian Improv Records Tribute to the man on Friday, a Blackout Festival tribute on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday featuring a two-set jam with the man and his quartet (with Jeff Parker, Hamid Drake and Harrison Bankhead).

Single City is a blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

Anyone who has moved to a new city for work knows how painfully boring and lonely it can be. So when my friend Lea moved to a very small town for her new job working with children, we weren't sure how she'd ever make it. How do you connect to others outside of mutual friends, school or work?

In her new world, Lea had neither of the three and so, in a fit of bravery, she decided to try out Match.com. But no friend of mine would go such a route -- pay to find dates?! No way Jose! -- without a discount. Lea Googled "coupons for Match.com" and got 25 percent off.

It initially surprised me to hear that such coupons existed, although I do now realize how legitimate dating websites have become. Like getting your clothes drycleaned or your hair cut, online dating is now such a common service that there is a demand for coupons, discounts and deals to scoop the competition.

Try these:

25 percent off Match.com subscription

50 percent off Match's sister dating site, Chemistry.com

(Note: I attempted to find coupons for EHarmony.com, JDate.com, Lavalife.com and MatchMaker.com to no avail, but maybe you'll have better luck finding the one --err, it. If you do, let everyone know in the comments.)


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For Our Town's first birthday party last year, we invited many distinguished guests, including Derrick Rose, Gordon Beckham, Ozzie Guillen, Andrew Bird, Common, Brian Dennehy, Dennis Farina and David Sedaris.

None of them showed.

So we're a little skeptical of the star-studded list of "special invited guests" at tonight's BlackOut party at The Shrine, which includes Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, Trey Songz and the assembled rosters of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then again, the host of tonight's bash is LeBron James, the King of the NBA, who's likely got a little more pull than we do. So the possibilities for the evening are pretty much endless.

This much we know: The doors open at 9 p.m., and Mick Boogie, Sean Mac and Steph Floss will DJ.

P.O.S.
8 p.m. at Bottom Lounge; $15
With a fanbase that's been steadily growing for the past couple years, P.O.S. has been dubbed by many critics as the savior of hip-hop. It's a tremendous title to bestow on a guy whose humble attitude is his most endearing quality, but it isn't totally off-point especially when considering his huge crossover appeal. P.O.S.'s hybrid of punk and rap is stylistically comparable to two trains colliding head-on at 100 MPH, which in this case isn't a bad thing at all. In fact his no-nonsense, aggressive style is exactly what rap needs right now and it's nice to know that Rhymesayers has allowed this guy to grow without restriction. Dessa of Doomtree will open along with Astronautalis.

Legion
7:30 p.m. at Viaduct Theatre; $10
The freaks at Wildclaw Theatre didn't find their niche - they dug it. After two years, they're still crouched inside that niche, leaping out only to terrify audiences with great works of horror theater. Their latest play, an adaptation of a sequel to "The Exorcist," pits a cop against a serial killer who may or may not be dead.

Submit your NCAA bracket to a bar.
Whether you're a fan of college basketball or not, there's no better excuse for weekday celebration than March Madness. Before you get too rowdy, make sure the bartender has your picks in hand -- you could win all sorts of prizes this year, including a trip to the Bahamas, a flat-screen TV and a flight on a private jet to see the Cubs play the Cardinals in St. Louis. Get the details and find out about other tourney deals here, and while you're at it, find your school's affiliated Chicago bar.

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Assuming today's St. Patrick's Day celebrations don't make you swear off whiskey forever, you'll want to clear some space in your schedule for Faith & Whiskey's first-ever Whiskey Week, five days of specials and celebrations at the Lincoln Park bar.

It all starts with a cocktail reception from 8-9 p.m. tonight hosted by Jameson (and the Jameson girls). Expect $6 40s, $3 well drinks and traditional Irish music and Irish rock all night.

On Thursday, Jack Daniels (well, his brand) will stop by for a reception from 9-11 p.m.; get loaded on $4 drinks/shots before live band karaoke starts at 10 p.m.

On Friday, Jack is back for a tasting and informational session from 7-8 p.m., with several whiskey varieties paired with chocolate, caramel, toasted almond shavings and dried apricots. It's also Faith & Whiskey's first anniversary, so you'll enjoy free pizza from 5-8 p.m. and a "video power hour" from 8-9 p.m.

On Saturday, Northwestern University "Whiskey Professor" Mark Gruber (also of Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois) hosts an informational session and rare whiskey tasting from 8-9 p.m.

On Sunday, the bar launches "Country Sundays," a new weekly event featuring a live country band (Grimm Taylor kicks things off) and beer pong from 5-8:30 p.m. Special to the kickoff event will be a Southern Comfort hosted cocktail reception from 7-9 p.m.

Still in a peaty frame of mind? The annual WhiskyFest goes down on April 23 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

2008_blaneyi_PIC2.jpgThe Rovers went pretty far for this show in 2008. (via Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band)

Pipe up. By our count, the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band will be playing at 25 different bars on St. Paddy's Day. If you can keep up with their pace, you'll deserve some sort of prize. If contemporary Irish music's more your bag, try Tributosaurus -- as Van Morrison -- at FitzGerald's St. Patrick's Day Festival or the Tossers at Metro.

Eat Guinness. That's right, we said "eat." The stout is showing up in dishes around the city, including in a Guinness pizza topped with potatoes, onions and bechamel at Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar and Guinness-spiked beer cheese dip at Dunlays on the Square.

Take it outside. It's supposed to be in the 50s tomorrow, so you won't be freezing while roaming Rush Street at the annual Shamrock Around the Block celebration. The $3.50 Miller Lite drafts will be flowing as you dodge leprechauns on stilts, Irish pipers and more at She-nannigans, Bootleggers, The Original Mother's, Mother's Too and The Lodge. 11 a.m.-4 a m.

It's a big day in Our Town, because today marks the first installment of Single City, a mostly daily blog about the Chicago dating scene by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Take it away, Sally:

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Originally from Los Angeles –- to which I give credit for my tough attitude and street smarts -- I was a gross tomboy (unfortunately) nicknamed “Buff Girl” in middle school, before evolving into your average single twentysomething woman trying to make sense of dating in Chicago.

When I’m not covering breaking news for the Sun-Times Media Wire, I’ll be here at Single City to ask questions, get answers, discuss dating trends and date ideas, and shower you with stories of composite dating experiences that are ironic, hilarious, sweet and strange. Got a too-good-to-be-true tale that fits the description? Questions about your situation? Need a guinea pig to try out a dating adventure? Just want to chat about shady men or annoying women? Email me!



The Bachelor and the Poor Man: I'm On a Boat

If there was ever a competition for the most unrealistic vision of courtship, ABC's "The Bachelor" would definitely get a rose.

But even those who aren’t fans of the show can appreciate the unattainably lavish dates featured in each episode – even if they can’t imagine paying for them. In an effort to bring TV romance a little closer to reality, Single City is proud to present “The Bachelor and The Poor-Man,” a weekly series featuring date ideas inspired by the show, with alternatives that the average Chicagoan can afford.

The inspiration: It might still be a painful memory for Team Tenley, but the cuddling session between last season's runner-up and her (shirtless) object of affection, Jake, on a boat in St. Lucia certainly put some wind in viewers' sails.

The Bachelor: Charter a sailboat for a romantic cruise on Lake Michigan. Lakeshore Sail Charters and Go Sailing Chicago offers sailing charters for up to six people per ride. Lakeshore goes for as cheap as $125 per hour on weekdays ($155 Friday, Saturday and Sunday) with a two-hour minimum; Go Sailing offers rides as cheap as $150 per weekday hour ($170 weekends) with a three-hour minimum.

So pack a picnic dinner and bring some booze, and then just stay busy by fawning over each other at sunset. If you plan it right, you can also catch a viewing of the free Navy Pier fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Go Sailing also suggests swimming, which offers a perfect opportunity to make out nearly naked -- just like in those racy hot tub scenes.

The Poor Man: If spending that much on a date makes you a little seasick, don’t worry. You can still get the romance flowing by going to dinner at one of several Riverwalk cafes via (drum roll...) WATER TAXI! It’s no gondola ride, but it’s still much more original, romantic and scenic than the L. And while the River may lack the awe-inspiring qualities of Lake Michigan, it’s still majestic in its own right.

Take a Shoreline Water Taxi from River North (at Erie and Larrabee) down to the Michigan Avenue Bridge for as little as $2 and have a French feast at Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, grab sushi at Diosa on the River, spice things up at Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt or just keep it simple at O’Brien’s Riverwalk Café.

Feel like Chinese? Take the Chicago Water Taxi from Michigan Avenue down to Chinatown for your pick of authentic and fusion foods for just $4 each way.

The lineup for this year's Chicago Blues Festival (June 11-13 in Grant Park) has just been released. The names that jump out at first glance: harpist James Cotton (Friday), Delta legend David "Honeyboy" Edwards (Saturday), blues-jam fusion band Lubriphonic and smooth Southerner T.K. Soul. Not exactly a star-studded fest, but we're sure the purists will find some acts to enjoy. See the full schedule here.

For more festival news, visit CenterstageChicago.com/festival.

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The Very Best
8 p.m. at Bottom Lounge; $15
It may have started as a chance encounter at a thrift shop, but after a handful of successful remixes, collaborations and a highly touted full-length, the infectiously charming trio The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya, Johan Hugo and DJ Tron) have established themselves as darlings of the global music scene. The London-based trio tastefully mixes traditional Malawi rhythms with modern-day hip-hop beats, reggae and, well, pretty much everything else to create the sunniest Afro-pop you'll hear. If you tried to catch them in October you probably were met with a disappointing cancellation notice, but don't let that deter you from this one because Esau Mwamwaya has officially cleared his visa and has promised to deliver a show that's well worth the wait.

Cabinet of Curiosities
6 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art (in Puck's Cafe); free
Non-profit art gallery threewalls curates this month's edition of the variety show series. The gallery has made a name for itself by showcasing all forms of media, so expect an eclectic evening.

Vintage Magic "Uncorked"
7:30 p.m. at In Fine Spirits Lounge; $13
Magician Sean Masterson performs a variety of parlor tricks in a private room at this Andersonville wine bar. Watch him make bottles disappear before your very eyes -- while you do the same to a classic cocktail from the extensive list.


When you went out to eat today -- whether it was a quick trip to Subway or a power lunch at Bull & Bear -- you were likely given a precious gift for free, and didn't even realize your good fortune.

We're talking about clean, refreshing water, of course. According to UNICEF, nearly 900 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and 4,100 children die of water-related diseases every day. The organization's annual Tap Project is an effort to raise awareness and funding to fight such problems, coinciding with World Water Week (March 21-27). As in previous years, Chicago businesses are getting in on the act with special events and promotions. We'll add to this list as we hear about more.

  • Sunda.The River North restaurant will co-host a four-course family-style dinner on Friday, March 19 at 7 p.m. The $100 event in the upstairs private dining room will include Grey Goose cocktails, sake, wine and champagne, as well as an afterparty at the Underground.
  • Oakton Community College. The "Tap to the Rhythm" event features musical numbers from students and local residents at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 25. Tickets are $5 in advance (847-635-1900) or $7 at the door.
  • InterContinental Chicago. Throughout March, the hotel will ask guests to donate $1 or more for water they usually enjoy for free -- as will many restaurants around town.

3 Things To Do Today

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OatesRushdie (4)lg.jpgPhoto: University of Delaware

Joyce Carol Oates
2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Harold Washington Library; free
Columbia College's Story Week Festival of Writers really gets rolling today as superstar author Joyce Carol Oates makes two appearances at the downtown library to talk about, well, herself. At 2:30 p.m., Gavin Cologne-Brookes, the author of Dark Eyes on America: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates, hosts a Q&A and signing session. At 6 p.m., the literary icon will read and discuss her work with Donna Seamon of Chicago Public Radio.

Essay Fiesta
7 p.m. at The Book Cellar; free
These aren't your high school English essays. "Essay Fiesta" features humorous nonfiction performed in the cozy confines of the Book Cellar, one of America's very few bookstores with a liquor license. The best part: Despite being a fundraiser for Howard Brown Center, the event is somehow free.

Woods, Real Estate, Netherfriends
9 p.m. at Lincoln Hall; $12
Chicago's Netherfriends will be the most cacophonous act of this three-pronged lo-fi bill, thanks to its yelping pop plateau. Real Estate bring things along with beach-comber guitars and floating choruses from the New Jersey band's best-of-2009 charting self-titled debut. Woods closes with enough sunshine pop to send this Chicago winter off for good.

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Photo: Hockeyband.com

Up-and-coming bands Constellations and Hockey performed on Friday at Lincoln Hall. Our Town was there to catch 'em in the act.

Surprisingly, not one of the Constellations’ seven band members feels superfluous. Instead, they come together onstage to create the relaxed atmosphere of a small party, running the gamut from energetic bongos to tambourine girls. Integrating electronic elements into a sound that could be borrowed from the Raconteurs,the band might traffic in "indie", but its heart is clearly rooted in funk. Unashamedly throwback at points, and more interested in having fun than looking cool, the Constellations' conviction comes across in every song.

Hockey, meanwhile focuses more on a sexy electro-pop sound with the emphasis on pop. Names like the xx, Memory Tapes, or even YACHT spring to mind at times, but Hockey’s lighter sensibility makes for pithier, danceable numbers. Befitting a first album, the songs can be uneven, but the group’s energy, exemplified in all-around entertaining and totally winning frontman Benjamin Grubin, doesn’t let the momentum drag. Even if you can resist the urge to jump up and dance, you’ll still find yourself sitting up to take notice. -- Anne Royston

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
M Burger - This burger-and-shake joint shares a kitchen with Tru in Streeterville.
Aldino's - The people behind Mia Francesca and The Purple Pig bring this Italian cafe/market to Little Italy.
Club Blujazz - Finally, a jazz lounge in Wicker Park -- with nightly performances!

CLOSED:
Horan's Snug -- One of Forest Park's most comfortable pubs has turned into a place called Duck Fat Tavern & Grill.

Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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Even rivers like a “wearing o’ the green”
The Chicago River gets its annual dose of emerald with the dyeing of the river at 10:45 a.m. See it from the east side of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the west side of the Columbus Drive bridge or on upper or lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Michigan. Free!

Taste Saturday’s high life
The 55th annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at noon at Balbo and Columbus and proceeds north up Columbus to Monroe. Free! For more information: www.chicagostpatsparade.com

Take a trip to Cathair na Gaillimhe (or at least a pub named after it):
Cathair na Gaillimhe (Galway, to you Yanks) is one of our favorite party towns in Ireland, so it’s no surprise Chicago’s Galway Arms (2442 N. Clark) is one of our favorite places to get our drink on. Doors open at 9 a.m. Call: (773) 472-5555.

Hey! You got three better ones?
Tell us your three favorite things about Saturdays!

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Meet a real live leprechaun
As part of its week-long celebration, Timothy O’Toole’s will have a “real live leprechaun” (we’re guessing it’s just a short Irish dude in a green suit, but go with it) schmoozing the crowd and hosting the first of many green beer chugging contests.

The festivities start at 8 p.m. on Friday and continue until, well, pretty much next Thursday.

Try a Chocolate Guinness cupcake
Dessert haven More Cupcakes is behind this succulent treat, which is crafted to replicate the appearance of a Guinness-filled pint glass. It features a dark Guinness-chocolate cake topped with a light Guinness-muscovado brown sugar frosting.

Beer in cupcake form? Now we’re talking! If that’s not your bag, try the Irish Coffee cupcake – coffee cake topped with a Kahlua-Guinness frosting. Sweetened coffee soil - a crumbly mix of ground coffee, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt - is sprinkled on top.

Both are on sale at least through St. Patrick’s Day.

Make your own Irish toast
Learn a few authentic Gaelic toasts with the help of River North Irish pub Fado’s web site. Choose from three toasts, then upload your photo and … well, you’ll see.

Our fave:
Get it in
Get it out
Get it home
Get it washed

Simple, yet practical.

March 17 will be a big day for beer-drinkers in the Chicago area, and not just because of St. Patrick's Day.

Next Wednesday is also when Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds Brewery will reportedly begin offering the "golden tickets" needed to purchase bottles of Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout at the annual Dark Lord Day celebration on April 24. The tickets, which sold out quickly last year, will cost $10 each, with the proceeds going to charity. Stay tuned to Three Floyds' Twitter feed to find out exactly when tickets will be released. Hopefully it will happen before you've had too many green beers.

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Out of the Blues 2
7 p.m. at House of Blues; $150
Every once in a while some of the city's finest blues icons pool their star power for a charitable cause like this one: the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, the only rape crisis center serving the Northeast Suburbs. It may seem steep at $150 a ticket, but all but $25 goes toward the charity, while the remainder is penance for Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater (pictured), Lonnie Brooks and Jimmy Dawkins, one of the last holdovers from the West Side funk explosion.

Taste of Morton Grove
5:30 p.m. at White Eagle Banquets; $40
If you like the food part of the Taste of Chicago, but not all the craziness, this suburban offering could be a good choice.The evening of samples, live and silent auctions and raffles features many participating restaurants including Catered by Design, China Chef, Dairy Queen, El Sol, Giordano's, Graziano’s, Gulliver's, Kappy's Restaurant, Maier's Bakery, Maggiano's, Melting Pot, Orchard Village, Pizano's and Wa-Pa-Ghetti's.

11:11
8 p.m. at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater; $25
Christian teens get (accidentally) high. It sounds like the set-up for a sloppy, wacky satire, or maybe some high-concept porn. But if you believe Chicago critics, the New Colony's "11:11" is a surprisingly sensitive exploration of identity and faith. Sure, it's a comedy confection of doped-up virgins, but with a lingering, meaningful aftertaste. The show closes on Saturday.

Are you missing Restaurant Week already? Don't fret -- another seven days of dining deals is just around the corner. The second annual Chicago Chef Week (March 22-28) will feature $30 three-course dinner menus (and occasionally, $20 lunch menus) at 28 restaurants around the city. Highlights include Perennial, Vie, The Publican, Blackbird, Prairie Fire, LM, Hearty and more. Get on those reservations now.

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Illustration for "The Twins Would Like To Say" by Rod Hunting


The Twins Would Like To Say

8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Steppenwolf Merle Reskin Garage Theatre
Strange, luminous, and a lot like being inside a pinball machine, this show spins its audience through the secret world of Jennifer and June, two real-life twins who always moved in unison and never spoke. It's staged in promenade, which means that, as the exquisitely choreographed actors and set pieces zoom around, you can choose which of them to watch or follow. You'll be haunted by what you see, and even more by what you miss.

"Rock and Roll" Wine Tasting
6:30 p.m. at Landmark Grill and Lounge; free
Landmark's monthly wine tasting series returns with a bang tonight, as guests will taste four wines selected to go with Rolling Stones songs (e.g. "Paint It Black" with a Chilean Cabernet). Complimentary light hors d'oeuvres will be served. If you're not moving on to the Steppenwolf, stay for drinks; Wednesdays featured half-price bottles of wine and $6 Svedka cocktails.

Surfer Blood
9 p.m. at Schubas; $12
This West Palm Beach quartet has a pretty appropriate name, as its reverb rock sounds kind of like what might happen if an old Beach Boys record were torn to shreds by punk rockers. Weezer's a good reference point here, too. Turbo Fruits and MillionYoung will support with a similar surf vibe.

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Cook County Social Club will be one of many local acts at this year's fest.

The beauty of improv is its unpredictability -- but sometimes, you want to have at least a little information before jumping in. This week's announcement about the lineup for the 13th Annual Chicago Improv Festival (April 19-25) offers just that. Some key numbers:

  • 65. The number of acts performing at this year's fest. Our favorite at first glance is Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica (from Austin, TX). See the full schedule here.
  • 38. That's how many Chicago ensembles are included in that number. Especially intriguing: the Rattlesnake High School reunion show.
  • 24 and 8. The number of different cities and countries, respectively, that the rest of the acts hail from. Boom Chicago All-Stars!
  • 12. The number of locations for this year's events, including Apollo Theatre, Annoyance Theater, the Athenaeum, Chemically Imbalanced Theater, ComedySportz, Gorilla Tango, IO Comedy Theater, Laugh Out Loud, Martyrs, The Playground and The Second City.
  • 3. The number of recipients of the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. Harold Ramis, Dick Schaal and Severn Darden will be honored at 7 p.m. on April 21 at the Second City ETC theater. Susan Messing (Improviser of the Year) and Improvised Shakespeare Co. (Ensemble of the Year) will also be getting awards.

Tickets for the festival will go on sale April 1 at www.chicagoimprovfestival.org.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Gilt Bar
Indulging is way too easy at this River North gastropub.

Off the Beaten Path: Zaytune Mediterranean Grill
Middle Eastern quick service in Bridgeport.

Weekly Treat: Tonight is vodka night at Villains Bar & Grill
South Loop spot serves up all vodka drinks for just $3.

Man We're Crazy About: Second City Subs
Lincoln Park sandwich shop makes ‘em fast and fresh.

For more Chicago bar and restaurant news, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

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Califone presents a live soundtrack tonight. (photo: Dan Smalls Presents)

Califone
9 p.m. at Lincoln Hall; $15-$18
Hot off an opening gig for Wilco, the much overlooked Chicago-based folktechnics tone down some of their experiments based on dreams and found sounds to orchestrate a live rendition of frontman Tim Rutili's ambitious film project, "All My Friends Are Funeral Singers" (the band released an accompanying album of the same name in 2009). The film involves a psychic woman battling some unruly ghosts, and the music is appropriately harrowing with simple, acoustic-based loops that might feel at home in Iron & Wine's catalogue. The band plays a more straightforward "rock show" on Wednesday night.

Limoncello Dinner
7-9 p.m. at Salute Wine Bar; $25
This special edition of the Gold Coast bar's tasting series takes on some unique flavors with a four-course pairing menu tonight. Selections include red leaf frisee salad with tangy goat cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette (with lemon-pomegranate cello); braised pork belly with a blood orange-vanilla beurre blanc, sauteed brussel sprouts and pancetta (with blood-orange vanilla cello); traditional cannoli (with pistachio creme cello) and amaretto-coffee ice cream with an over-size biscotti (with mocha cello). Call for reservations.

Sex & The City Trivia
7:30 p.m. at Ginger's Ale House; $5
What was Big's first wife's name? Who is Carrie's favorite designer? If you can answer these questions, you should be in good shape for this always-fun event, which you can play alone or with a group of your besties. We'd recommend skipping the Cosmos tonight, as Ginger's is an authentic Irish pub with lots of good beers available.
Check out more trivia options on Centerstage.


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The War Eagles were racing for the troops on Saturday. (photo: Meredith Gregory, NBCChicago)

If you were out in the Wicker Park area on Saturday, you may have seen some, um, interesting things. Those people dressed in weird costumes pushing a shopping cart and chugging beers? They were participating in the fifth annual Chiditarod, a charity race full of ridiculousness (at least, we hope they were). This year's event was again a huge success. For more photos like the above, visit nbcchicago.com.

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At least one dude is excited about Stone coming to town.
(photo: The Beer Student)

Beer fans, the brew-mors are true: Stone Brewing Co. will begin distribution in the Chicago area beginning in April. As if the increased availability of Arrogant Bastard Ale and other aggressive beers weren't enough, there's more good news. To build up local goodwill, the San Diego-based brewer is putting together a week's worth of events (dinners, tastings, meet-and-greets) at some of Chicago's best beer spots. Our favorite? A three-hour tour of all three Small Bar locations (Logan Square, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park) followed by a shuttle ride down to Reggie's for a music showcase featuring the Muddy Udders (Friday, April 2; $5 for the music).

See the full schedule of events here.

If you were skeptical about Anthony Bourdain's ability to entertain, those doubts were likely erased by the celebrity chef/foodie/TV personality's recent appearance on "Larry King Live" and his new satellite radio show with Eric Ripert, "Turn & Burn." So now that you're convinced it'd be worth seeing him in person on April 24 at the Chicago Theatre, what do you do?

According to 312 Dining Diva, one option is to bid on reports some premium pit seats in the Ticketmaster auction today, with bidding open until March 19. The winners will not only get the prime butt real-estate, but get a chance to meet Mr. Bourdain backstage. Extra points if you submit your bid in meat form.

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Idris Goodwin, Kevin Coval, Serengeti

8 p.m. at SPACE; $8-$18
With the line between lyricism and poetry being so fine, it's not uncommon to see MCs express themselves in both hip-hop ciphers and academic arenas alike. Idris Goodwin, Kevin Coval and Serengeti are just those types of artists, and their respective bodies of work have done more than change the landscape of hip-hop. Each one is accomplished in his own right, and it'll be interesting to see all three of them share the stage with their own style of wordplay. Idris Goodwin (an NEA award-winning writer) may be the headliner (the show's a release party for his new album, "Break Beat Poems") but openers Kevin Coval (co-founder of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Slam Festival) and Serengeti (of Anticon) will make this an all-around solid display of lyrical excellence.

What the Hell Do You Know About Afghanistan?
8 p.m. at Hideout; $10 requested donation
Iraq Veterans Against the War presents this series of shorts, skits, stories and performances will provide some background about the country that the U.S. has occupied for over nine years. It can't hurt to get more informed, can it?

The Magnetic Fields
7:30 p.m. at Harris Theater for Music and Dance; $30-$35
Stephin Merritt's infamous indie-pop quartet submits another pared-down performance at the Millennium Park venue tonight. The band's latest, Realism, concludes its 'no-synth' trilogy -- so expect a folky, organic experience. Multilingual Canadian artist Laura Barrett opens.

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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Not talking about the Cliff Notes version:
Chicago Shakespeare Theater (800 E. Grand) presents “Short Shakespeare! The Comedy of Errors,” an abridged, kid-friendly version of one of Shakespeare’s best comedies at 11 a.m. today. Adult tickets are $20, students get in for $16. Call (312) 595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com

Perfecting our Oscar acceptance speech:
Have a photo taken of yourself holding an actual Oscar statuette at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “Meet the Oscars, Chicago” exhibit at the Shops at North Bridge (520 N. Michigan) from 11 a.m. to 6 tonight. Free. (312) 327-2300.

Daring people to try the five-alarm chili:
The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosts its 11th annual chili cook-off at Sidetrack from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. today. More than 15 restaurants and catering companies will offer up samples. Tickets, $10. Reservations strongly recommended. Call (773) 303-0167 or go to www.glchamber.org.

Given how quickly the Pitchfork Music Festival sold out of its three-day passes, it appeared that fans would've been content with the lineup as first announced. But of course, that would leave a lot of dead air during the weekend-long (July 16-18) extravaganza in Union Park -- so here comes round two, led by Canadian pop collective Broken Social Scene, dissonant hip-hop producer/MC El-P, Animal Collective's Panda Bear, fusion group The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Chicago-based psych acts Cave and Alla.

Below is the complete day-by-day lineup as we know it so far, with the newly announced acts starred.

Friday
Modest Mouse
Broken Social Scene*
El-P*

Saturday
LCD Soundsystem
Panda Bear*
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion*
Raekwon
Titus Andronicus
Bear In Heaven*
Freddie Gibbs*
Dam-Funk*
The Smith Westerns*

Sunday
Pavement
St. Vincent
Lightning Bolt
Girls*
Cass McCombs
Here We Go Magic
Sleigh Bells
Cave*
Alla*

Single-day tickets are still available at pitchforkmusicfestival.com.

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DJ Spooky closes out the second CIMM Fest on Sunday. (photo: MySpace)

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival
Thursday-Sunday around Chicago; $10-$40
Highlights of this four-day film fest include a retrospective of experimental filmmaker Marie Losier's work, performances from DJ Spooky (March 7 at Lincoln Hall), Robyn Hitchcock (March 5 at Schubas), Jon Langford (March 6 at Schubas), Grant Hart (Husker Du drummer, March 5 at St. Paul's Cultural Center) and many films.

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You'll be floored by this fiddler. (photo via MySpace)

Sara Watkins
8 p.m. at SPACE; $15-$25
Best known as the fiddler for CMT starlets, Nickel Creek, Watkins hit the solo ground running with the enlistment of John Paul Jones as producer and a barnhouse full of collaborators - from Gillian Welch to Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench. Though she stacks the deck with accessible covers of Jimmie Rodgers, Jon Brion and Tom Waits tunes, Watkins follows up with genuine arrangements that make old-time country feel new again.

Chicago International Movies & Music Festival
7:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Cultural Center, 2215 W. North; $20
The four-day fest kicks off tonight with an opening party featuring Chicago premiere screenings of "Universalove" and "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" plus musical performances by Thee Majesty and Penny Arcade.

Forgotten Chicago Silent Auction & Giveaway
8 p.m. at Cunneen's; free
Join Forgotten Chicago -- an organization aimed at finding and celebrating the city's lesser known architecture and infrastructure -- in celebrating Chicago's 173rd birthday tonight with an auction of "books, photography and ephemera." RSVP on Facebook.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Tao Ran Ju Restaurant - Get yer goose intestines and duck gizzards at this Chinatown restaurant.
Harry Caray's Tavern (Navy Pier) - It's a meeting of the minds for two of the biggest tourist attractions in the city.
Francesca's on Chestnut - The Italian empire-building continues with this Gold Coast outpost at the Seneca Hotel.

OPENING:
Houndstooth Saloon - After a brief closing, the beloved Lakeview bar is back on Thursday in a new, bigger space a block south of its old location. Watch for Dos Gringos Trailer Park in the old space in the next week or so.

CLOSING:
A Mano - After a few years of serving up rustic Italian cuisine in the heart of downtown, John Caputo's restaurant will close its doors on Saturday, March 6.

Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.

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Last weekend's Chicago WingFest turned out pretty well for Jake Melnick's Corner Tap. The Streeterville bar took home three prizes, including first place in the Hot category (for the XXX Hot Wings), second place in the Exotic category (for the Poncho's Wings) and the overall Best in Show award. To celebrate, Jake's will offer special $5 WingFest Flights featuring three of each variety from now through March 17.

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Nothing's funnier than Canadians at summer camp.

The 3 Penny Was Here: A Lincoln Hall Movie Night
7 p.m. at Lincoln Hall; free
Continuing its celebration of the space's former resident, 3 Penny Cinema, Lincoln Hall presents a double feature sure to cure any lingering winter blues. "Wet Hot American Summer" and "Meatballs," two summer-camp classics from different eras (2001 and 1979, respectively), offer sophomoric laughs, color-war battles and at least one graphic display of guy-on-guy action. Enjoy $3 Bud drafts, $3 Busch tallboys, $3 s'mores and half-price mac 'n' cheese.

The Streets On Fire
9:30 p.m. at Empty Bottle; free
It's not often you get to see a buzz band for nothing, let alone three. This garage-dance-rock act headlines HEAVEmedia's showcase of emerging Chicago bands for good reason, having gained a lot of local support for its debut EP, Hot Weekend (see Loud Loop Press's 10 Chicago Bands to Watch). The Nothingheads and Yours Truly & The Heroes support.

Instant Theatre
8 p.m. at Chicago Dramatists; free
A week to write, an hour to rehearse. This low-key gig, a monthly event at Chicago Dramatists, gives playwrights the chance to mix it up on stage and see what rises. What'll it cost you for a taste? Exactly one hour of your time and exactly zero of your dollars.

Last year, Chicago Opera Theater asked locals a simple question: "Why do you deserve free tickets?" Those who best answered the question in video form on YouTube got just what they asked for -- free tickets.

The promotion was such a success (or maybe just a source of office entertainment), COT is bringing it back, this time with a new question: "How do YOU make opera less ordinary?” Submit your three-minute interpretation of one of the operas of COT's 2010 Spring Festival Season ("Jason," "Moses in Egypt," "Three Decembers" and "An Evening with Frederica von Stade") by April 9 for the chance to win two free subscriptions to the entire run. All submission details can be found here. Need inspiration? Check out the kick-off video below.

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"Whirlybird," one of tonight's featured films during Female Filmmakers Night.
(photo via Cinebugfilms.com)

Midwest Independent Film Festival
6 p.m. at Landmark Century Centre Cinema; $10
The monthly festival returns with its first Female Filmmakers Night. The lineup of short films includes the Chicago premiere of "575 Castro Street," Jenni Olson's tribute to Harvey Milk, "Bring It In," Dina Facklis' portrait of a middle school girls basketball team and "Race You," a music video for Elizabeth & the Catapult (plus eight other pieces). The fun starts with a cocktail reception, followed by the Producers Panel at 6:30 p.m. All filmmakers will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion, with the after-party to take place at Forno Diablo.

An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin

8 p.m. at Cadillac Palace Theatre; $18-$120
The Broadway-geek concert event of the year (which runs through Sunday) features Mandy Patinkin (aka Inigo Montoya from "The Princess Bride") who has a legendary stage career and a tenor voice so high it'll make your balls retract. He's joined by Patti Lupone, who originated roles like Evan Person and Fantine, and recently headlined a string of Broadway revivals. In other words, total show-biz royalty.

Andreas Kapsalis Trio
9:30 p.m. at The Whistler; free
Technical guitar warrior Andreas Kapsalis closes with two cohorts, Jamie Gallagher (drums) and Darren Garvey (guitar), experienced in everything from jazz to African drum circles. The trio's been known to lend its sonic talents to Sundance-featured movie scores as well as albums like 2005's "Black Gold," an in-depth look at the world of coffee and global trade.

You know what Chicago needs? Another summer music festival. Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, Gospel Fest, Crossroads, West Fest, Metronome, Wicker Park Fest and all the others just aren't enough to satisfy our need for eclectic tunage. At least that's what the people behind the recently announced North Coast Music Festival think.

Consider us intrigued. The fest, scheduled to take place over Labor Day weekend (September 3-5) in Union Park, seems like it'll be a great way to close out the season -- and that's without even knowing who will be playing. We've got faith that promoters Silverwrapper and Kingtello have some exciting ideas in store, which they'll be announcing soon via the fest's Twitter feed. You can also join the Facebook group to add your lineup suggestions.

Whether you got the day off or not, you should still give our ol' hero Casimir Pulaski some respect today. Here are five ideas:


  • Get an ethnic education. Head to the Polish Museum of America to learn more about where the great man comes from. Now that the crowds from this morning's celebration have died down, you'll be able to browse the archives with ease. Don't miss the Joseph Conrad exhibit. Open until 4 p.m.; $3 suggested donation.
  • Review your military history. Pulaski was a huge part of our country's Revolutionary War victory. Find out more about the past at the Pritzker Military Library, open until 4:30 p.m.
  • Eat Polish food. There's a Chicago restaurant specializing in pretty much any kind of traditional delicacy you crave. For pierogi, we'd suggest Kasia's, Podhalanka or one of these other favorites. If you're more into meat, the new Lincoln Square location of Gene's Sausage.
  • Take a trip. Hop on the Orange Line and get off at the Pulaski stop, where you'll find plenty to keep you entertained 'til late in the evening -- from pizza and donuts to a classic Chicago tavern.
  • Listen up. Does this Sufjan Stevens song have much to do with national history? Not really. But it's still a darn good listen.


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Toast to Harry Caray
7:40 p.m. at Harry Caray's Tavern (Navy Pier); free
What better place to toast to the late Cubs announcer (he would've been 96 today) than at the latest addition to his bar/restaurant empire? Join his widow, Dutchie, plus Chicago celebrities like Ernie Banks, Bobby Hull, Ron Kittle, Rick Nielson, Bill Kurtis, Richard Roeper, Joe Piscopo and more for a special toast to a special man. It's just one of many events happening at the new location today, which celebrates its grand opening with a full schedule including a Mascot Toast, the unveiling of the Chicago Sports Museum and raffles and giveaways every half hour. WGN Radio will broadcast live from 4-9 p.m.

Common Threads World Festival
6-9 p.m. at Soldier Field; $250
Celebrate Art Smith's 50th birthday with the celebrity chef and dozens of his culinary superfriends at this annual charity event. Expect a wide array of food samples from the likes of Graham Elliot Bowles (Graham Elliot), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven, The Purple Pig), David Burke and Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse), Christophe David (NoMI), Gale Gand (TRU), Stephanie Izard (The Girl & The Goat), Koren Grieveson (Avec) and more. The event benefits Smith's Common Threads foundation, which introduces low-income children to the world of cooking. A $500 VIP ticket gets you access to exclusive pre- and post-parties.


Jimmy Burns

9:30 p.m. at Buddy Guy's Legends; $10
The longtime host of The Jam is dealing with some sadness, as his wife, Dorothy, just passed away. That's just one more reason to go and support the Delmark stalwart who took a two-decade hiatus from his career to raise his family. He mounted a comeback in the late '90s with Leaving Here Walking, which won accolades for its explosive John Lee Hooker tightness and the Sunday-mass soul retained from his choirboy youth.

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